Why the 11th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY did NOT piss me off! (editorial review)

There’s SPOILERS off the starboard bow…
starboard bow…starboard bow!

After publishing my previous editorial review of the 10th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, a post from someone named Boris commented: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Capt Georgiou made a reappearance – maybe even as an Empress…”

I responded, “Man, if they make Georgiou the Emperor/Empress…that’s gonna be one angry blog!!! Enough with the doppelgängers!!!!” 🙂

Even as I wrote that response, I knew it was gonna happen.  It had to.  The “faceless” emperor?  C’mon!  In a Mirror Universe filled with probably hundreds of billions of sentient beings, we just happen to run into the dozen or so that are all main characters listed in the opening credits of the show: Captain “Killy” Tilly, the slave Saru, bearded Sarek, Voq leads the resistance, Burnham is captain of the USS Shenzhou, even Mirror-Stamets pops in.  Honestly, I was surprised we didn’t see Mirror Landry (the first Discovery security chief) as the Shenzhou‘s head chef or something!

So really, of course Philippa Georgiou was going to be the Empress.  Boris nailed it.  And that really pissed me off, right?

Surprisingly…no, it didn’t.

Neither was I angry about the Mirror-Tellarites mysteriously growing tusks like wild boar…or the Andorian whose voice reverberated for some strange reason.  Nothing seemed sloppily written or beyond believable.  There was even some banter!

Honestly, guys, I really liked this episode.  Let’s take a look at why…

First off, the “it’s-a-small-multiverse-after-all” coincidences stopped bothering me early on.  Of course all of the cast wants to play their own doppelgängers.  It’s fun!  Ever since Shatner played his evil self trying to get out of the brig and Nimoy played the intense Mirror-Spock to perfection, playing dark counterparts has been a treat for Trek series actors.  Everyone on Deep Space Nine wanted a turn being their Mirror selves, and the entire cast of Enterprise was treated to a wonderful 2-part Mirror episode.  So why should I begrudge Discovery from doing the same…especially if the writers can turn it into a compelling and believable story?

As for the tusks on the Tellarites or the Andorian with the voice harmonics, I got over that quickly, too.  I’ve given up being angry with the production design department.  I just think “parallel Trek universe, and all the continuity demons go back to sleep.

So that’s why I didn’t hate the episode.  But why did I like it so much?  Amusingly because it fixed nearly every problem I’ve been bitching about for the previous ten episodes.

For example, unlike the previous episode, this time they explained why—believably—Burnham, Tyler, and Lorca had to remain on board the Discovery for so long.  Last episode, it was just that no one was leaving Burnham alone long enough to look for the data on the USS Defiant.  Big deal.  Go somewhere quiet, post Tyler outside, and give orders that no one disturb you while you catch up on a year of missed e-mails or you’ll pull their liver out through their nostrils.

This time, though, they explain the problem: the data is too large to send to the Discovery via subspace.  The transmission would be detected.  Burnham has to find a way to download all the data first, get it onto some physical media, and find a way to get THAT to Discovery.  And that’s why things are taking so long.  Okay, just explain it believably, and I’ll happily play along.

The extra time on the Shenzhou then let this episode do something rather unique in Star Trek history that we haven’t seen before.  While Kirk and crew had to pretend to be barbarians, that was only for a few hours.  DS9‘s crossovers were also moderately brief, and most of the time, characters from our universe weren’t pretending to be their evil counterparts.

But Michael Burnham had to play the role of a cutthroat despotic captain for days, possibly even weeks.  What kind of mental toll does that take on a “good” person?  We’ve seen some brief glimpses of character introspection on this series, but not many and (with the exception of Saru’s soul-searching on the forest planet) fairly brief and not too deep.

This time, however, Burnham really sits with the impact this experience is having on her…and she needs Tyler and his love to be her “tether.”  And I FINALLY felt invested in Michael Burnham, cared about her as a character, and was rooting for her.  That made the loss of the Ash Tyler persona all the more tragic and painful as I watched.

Sure, by this point, we all knew Ash Tyler was Voq.  (And for all those people who believed Tyler was being raped by L’Rell and who got so upset with me for saying, “He wasn’t being raped; he’s Voq!”…well, I won’t say “I toldja so.”  I’ll just think it.)  And of course, now that the “secret” is officially no longer secret, we fans now know why the Klingons were so drastically redesigned.  It was all for the sake of this one scene where we discover that Tyler is really Voq (surprise!).  Had they simply popped a bumpy forehead and bushy eyebrows on actor Shazad Latif, most viewers would have easily recognized him…

Shazad Latif (Ash Tyler and Voq) as a Photoshopped TNG-era Klingon and as Voq in Discovery

Voq had to be unrecognizable.  As such, there was no realistic way to have the more familiar-looking Klingon make-up on the show.  I get it.  I still can’t give them a pass on calling this prime universe Trek with Klingons that look so different, but it’s fine.  As I said, I just think of it as an alternate Trek universe (or two).

But the “revelation” of Tyler’s true identity—at least during this specific episode—was handled really well (at least in my opinion).  He has his little freakout on the rebel planet when he sees “himself.”  Burnham gets him back to the ship, and she thinks he’s just hallucinating…and why shouldn’t she think that?  But then there’s that moment where Tyler says good-bye, he tilts his head back, and Voq takes over.  It’s kinda heartbreaking.  And still, Burnham doesn’t get it, even though Voq is telling her everything (’cause he’s about to kill her).

Then Voq shares something about their encounter on T’Kuvma’s ship that only Burnham would know, and she finally gets it.  But the suspense doesn’t end there.  They have a face-off (hmmm…interesting choice of words there, Lane!), and just as it looks like this is the end for Burnham, she’s saved by the cow (slave-Saru), has to quickly recover her composure, and now McScruffy-Voq is toast.  Forget the agony booth—on this starship, we beam our failed assassins directly into space!

But will Burnham be able to do it?  After all, not only did she love Tyler (and LOVE Tyler, ya know what I’m sayin’?), she’s also Starfleet…not some cold-blooded barbarian.  And that leads me to another thing I’ve seen precious little of in this series: a true surprise ending.

As I’ve stated before, I find a lot of things about this series predictable.  It doesn’t ruin the show for me, but neither does it really challenge me the way some truly unpredictable shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones have.  But this episode’s ending I totally did NOT see coming!  Tyler-Voq is standing on the transporter platform, and Burnham still needs to complete her mission.  She can’t be a softy and let him live.  She goes right up to him, he taunts her, and gives him a wallop in gut.  Is this it?  Will Burnham really space this guy???

Yes!  She stands at the transporter controls and energizes.  Tyler-Voq materializes in deep space and begins to freeze and suffocate.  Holy shat!  She actually did it!!!  I was sincerely surprised and impressed that the show would go in this direction.

Then, right before Tyler-Voq totally freezes or inflates or asphyxiates or whatever happens to a body in a vacuum, he’s beamed out.  He materializes on the Discovery, and rather than thinking he’s really Ash Tyler, they seem to already know he’s Voq (’cause, I’m sure, Burnham quickly texted them or something).  So none of this pretending to investigate the mysterious death of Dr. Culber by his actual murderer…thank goodness!

And before I could even think about the situation a little more, there it was: the McGuffin (the memory card with all the classified data on the Defiant)!  What a clever way of getting it off the Shenzhou and onto Discovery…and very clean plot-wise.  I liked that whole sequence so much that I watched it a second time.

And finally, this episode featured the one thing I’ve been complaining most loudly has been missing from this show: banter!  Granted, it was still Tilly-banter (she’s kind of their g0-to banter girl), but at least this time it was banter with someone why doesn’t usually get banter scenes: Saru.  Of course, at that point, there’s no one else from the main cast left on Discovery who isn’t either catatonic, dead, or stuck up on the bridge doing nothing but delivering quick snippets of dialog after the captain issues an order.  But hey, I’ll take some Saru banter…and it’s banter that helps develop the character of Tilly: she has now asked Saru to recommend her for the Command Training Program.  You go, girl!

We also get some banter—it’s deep, serious banter—between Burnham and Tyler…and at the end, between her and Lorca.  This, combined with Burnham’s voice-overs, is essential for establishing an emotional connection with the audience.  We now understand the heavy toll being in this universe and pretending to be heartless and cruel is taking on her.  Kudos to the writers for finally succeeding in making me care about Burnham.

In a future blog, I plan to take a closer look at the writers room for Star Trek: Discovery.  But for now, I’d just like to provide links to the IMDb pages for the writer of this episode, Lisa Randolph, and the writer of the previous episode, Sean Cochran.  If you look at the IMDb resumes of the two writers, you’ll discover that Lisa Randolph has many writing credits stretching back to 2002, including writing multiple scripts for such successful series as The Shield, Being Human, and Reign.

Sean Cochran, however, is a relative newbie to scriptwriting.  In fact, episode 10 of Discovery was his first and so far only “written by” credit for a script. Discovery is also Sean’s first-ever series working on the writing staff, as prior to Discovery, his experience was mainly production and production assistant work.

That’s not to say that a first-time writer can’t also be a good writer.  And everyone has to start somewhere, right?  This isn’t meant to disparage Sean Cochran, and of course, he didn’t write the script for episode 10 completely by himself.  The whole Discovery writing staff breaks down the plot of every episode—the major beats and story points that will happen—before a specific writer is given the task of working up the actual script.  And so Sean got his chance with episode 10.  Good for him, and good for the rest of the team to give him that chance.  But just as it’s rare for a rookie quarterback to win the Superbowl his first time out, so too is it more likely a first-time scriptwriter will wind up with something more flawed than would have been written by a more experienced veteran.  So I suspect that might be why episode 11 did NOT piss me off while episode 10 did.

But hey, Star Trek: Discovery just had an episode that Jonathan didn’t complain about at all!  Isn’t that amazing???

32 thoughts on “Why the 11th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY did NOT piss me off! (editorial review)”

  1. I enjoyed reading your article. Your thoughts are always interesting. When you were mentioning how the same actors appeared as different charactors, I remembered another show that did that 50 years ago. Most of the principal actors would be multiple charactors over the life of the show. Of course I refer to Dark Shadows. In that show just because a favorite character got killed, keep watching. They usually showed up as a different person, many times as their own ancestor. I don’t comment much but I do like to read your articles.

  2. Sorry, this one was just as poorly written as the rest. Burnham’s “Captain’s Log” voiceover was lazy scriptwriting—WHO was she talking to? The Empire is a totalitarian security-state. Everything is listened to by their secret police, that’s the macguffin they give for why she can’t move the data in the first place! So she can’t have been entering it into the Shenzhou log, and any remote transmission to Discovery would expose her. That’s just lazy, careless writing. That info-dump could just as easily been folded into a conversation with Tyler, but no, it just had to be a “Captain’s Log”, because fanfic. It also opens up the whole “how much does slave-Saru overhear” can of worms, too. Not to mention that one self-indulgence on the writer’s part also negated Burnham’s “adopted-Vulcan” upbringing setup, making her both intellectually clueless and emotionally immature at the same time?? I’d chalk it up to both laziness and misogyny on the writer’s part, but it was written by a woman!

    Then there’s the ludicrous plastic-surgery nonsense. McCoy was able to spot Arne Darvin as a Klingon impostor on K-7 with a salt-shaker scan. Dr Culber somehow couldn’t despite two full examinations in Discovery’s hyper-anachronistic Sickbay?? Even AFTER Tyler begged him to look specifically for him being some sort of Klingon sleeper??? DUMB.

    Lastly, Georgiou as Empress? Who cares? That’s not a “shock ending”. Pike or Garth as Emperor would have truly been a shock. This was just pandering to the Chinese market, and not at all some world-shattering revelation. This is where the boneheaded decision to skip backstory in the pilot kills the suspense. We didn’t get any real time to know her character before she dies, so the only person in the show who wasn’t an utter asshole from their debut scene gets relegated to “recycled scenery” instead of “returning corrupted heroine”.

    No, this episode was hardly redeeming. It was yet more C-grade melodrama of the bad fanfic variety, just like the rest of the series. #Stdfailcontinues

    1. I didn’t feel the voice-over was a personal log, Reece…for the reasons you stated and also because Burnham didn’t say, “Personal log, stardate…” I just saw it as thoughts spoken aloud as a disembodied voice-over. And I was okay with it, as it gave me a little insight into Burnham’s psyche…something that’s been frustratingly absent on this series thus far.

      As for Arne Darvin, maybe it was the capture of Tyler that allowed Starfleet to develop the “Klingon detector” in McCoy’s gadget ten years later. That didn’t bother me either.

      And Georgiou wasn’t inserted just to pander to a Chinese audience because, as it happens, Netflix has run into government regulatory hurdles in China. So most Chinese people in China aren’t able to see Discovery anyway…no matter who is in it. Had CBS wanted to pander to the Chinese, they wouldn’t have killed off Georgiou in the second episode, and they would have given the character a Chinese name rather than a French one (possibly Vietnamese?). So I’d take the exit ramp on that particular pathway of griping, my friend. 🙂

        1. Man, now it makes even LESS sense!

          I suppose I’ll be waiting for a future episode where Burnham gets a visit from her former C.O.’s widower husband Stavros!

    2. It was evident to me that she was talking to Tyler, as that’s where the conversation wrapped up. Hardly lazy at all.

  3. Yeah I didn’t feel that there was much to complain about in this episode either.
    But In my case I just chalked it up to they had worn me down.

    What I couldn’t quite – take in was that the Discovery was lurking nearby. and it wasn’t previously mentioned. (I guess it was hiding in the bushes or something) Otherwise I enjoyed the spacing of the part time Lt. And the confrontation.

    The update of the Tellerites was a good choice ( over the Enterprise ones, and the TOS ones for that matter. ) The Andorians seemed mostly the same.

    I guess i missed the comments about Gerogiou. I will say this with all the word salad we’ve seen so far it’d be a shame if they fail to mention Empress Sato.

    1. Yeah, where Discovery is hiding is an element that’s bothering me. After all, Captain Killy must be getting mission assignments from Terran Empire HQ: blow up this, destroy that, kill these people, etc. Are they just ignoring the orders from their superiors? And yeah, the Shenzhou crew should be asking Burnham, “Um, Captain, why is Discovery hanging out so close to wherever we go?” Fortunately, Burnham can reply, “Asking questions like that could cost you a limb. Would you like to start with an arm or a leg?” 🙂

      1. I tend to think of it more as skulking behind the nebula… Perhaps the Shenzou, should investigate getting some sort of restraining order.

  4. <>

    Love it! Always a pleasure reading your stuff Mr L – keep ’em coming. And thanks for the shout-out.

    What do you reckon to these CasinoBoris odds?

    Mirror Culber returns to Disco: Evens
    Mirror Burnham turns up: 6/1
    Mirror Landry returns: 8/1
    Burnham is pregnant: 9/1
    Mirror Caldwell assassinates Mirror Georghiou: 20/1
    Mirror Enterprise/Mirror Pike appearance: 50/1

    Stay groovy,

    B

    1. Actually, I think Reese is right and that Tilly (or rather, the actress who plays her) is pregnant. Anyone know if I’m correct on that one? (If not, don’t tell her I thought she was pregnant!)

        1. Look at her face in her debut episode, then again in the most recent one. Pregnant women almost always show their weight gain most noticeably in the facial area. Because humans look at each other’s faces more than any other body part, small changes stand out there.

        1. So your girlfriend rolls a Honda, playin’ workout tapes by Fonda
          But Fonda ain’t got a motor in the back of her Honda!

          But no, it’s not her Mixalot butt…it’s the baby bump in her belly, Mickey.

  5. I’m in the amusing predicament for a DSC superfan of slightly downgrading Ep. 11 ( to merely Really Good) from the score I’d give most of them so far (Fantastic). I was intrigued by the Rebel federation and the Firewolf and wanted to learn more about them than the show apparently had time to tell in this episode and stay on schedule for season’s end. I sensed the episode rushing a bit to get to Tyler double agent fighting the heroic Firewolf and then on to the bombing of the Rebel planet back to the stone age (as it were). No doubt the plot succeeds in heaping suffering onto (now Imperial Captain) Burnham like a wrathful Fate. Alas Dr Culber. Alas Lt. Ash Tyler now confirmed KIA. Indeed, the Empress’ identity was a bit difficult to hide (from we fans). But now on to the Palace, hopefully much more of USS Defiant, and the prospect of 2 Lt. Stamets(es) working together (?). I look forward to learning what sort of mission Captain Lorca has been on for some time, and on whose orders he has been acting (Imperial? his own? Section 31 Mirror/fascist or Prime?)

    1. As I read some reviews elsewhere on Facebook, I found it interesting and somewhat amusing that the one episode I really liked has been getting some rough criticisms from folks who are generally fans of the series. I guess I just can’t win! 🙂

  6. Isn’t the whole purpose of the mirror universe to see the evil versions of our favorite characters? Pretty sure it’s always been like that. Of all the billions of beings we only see our main characters evil twins.

    1. Yeah, that was the philosophy on DS9 and Enterprise, and truth to tell, the actors loved doing it. The DS9 cast looked forward every year to the Mirror Universe episode so they could slip into those fun-to-play dark (or light!) reflections of their usual characters.

  7. My two (actually three) cents on this episode (and your blog entry):

    1. You mean “Burnham, Tyler, and Lorca had to remain on board the SHENZHOU for so long.”, don’t you? 😉
    2. I actually took it that they (the people on Discovery) don’t really know Tyler is Voq, but more that he killed Culber. Did I miss something or did you only imply (as I did)?
    3. (but that’s already been commented on) How did Discovery get there so quickly to retrieve Tyler/Voq?

    1. 1. I am going to leave that typo in the blog as proof to everyone that I am NOT perfect…no matter what you all think. 😉

      2. Infer, not imply. However, since Saru knew to look for the data card in Tyler’s holster, one would assume Burnham phoned ahead and told them to expect him. Since the crew weren’t giving Tyler “welcome back!” hive-fives, one would assume they were told about him murdering Dr. Culber. Why would Burnham tell them only that and then leave out the important reason of why. It’s not like it’s a long explanation. “Oh, yeah, he’s really a Klingon and Culber found out!” Then run to the transporter room.

      3. Maybe they didn’t have to get there because they have transwarp beaming. Oh, wait, Scotty won’t invent that for another ten years…in a different universe. Man, I don’t know! I still liked the episode, dude. 🙂

    2. 1. When Ash Ketchum,,, err i mean Tyler beamed aboard. Saru, said he was busted. And there would be a trial/Tribunal.

      They didn’t actually show the call that was made. But previews showed him in sickbay. Hopefully they will put some Red Shirts or maybe some of those black badge dudes on him.

      2. They seemed to think that it was Stammets that killed Culber. Although Tyler confessed to killing Culber. When he was found out. Maybe Susan Lucci can get all this sorted out for us.

      3. Also it looked like Mirror Stammets in magic Mushroom field at the end there. Guess we shall see how they pay that one off.

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